THE GREAT EXPANSION VOL 7

Among American NHL teams, the Detroit Red Wings were the only ones capable of competing for  Stanley during the golden era of the NHL’s original 6. They won it plenty.

A good way to show Detroit’s strength compared to their American brother teams during the 1942-67 period of original six play is to compare Stanley’s:

  1. Montreal (10)
  2. Toronto (10)
  3. Detroit (5)
  4. Chicago (1)
  5. Boston (0)
  6. New York (0)

So when we talk about Detroit, they are somewhat unique in this era. Much better than their cousins, but still in the shadow of the might Canadian teams. Detroit would lose in the SC finals during this 26 year period 9 times: once to Chicago, twice to Montreal and to Toronto an incredible 6 times. So, they at least made the finals 14 times in 26 seasons, far better than the other American clubs.

Detroit kept goalies Roger Crozier and George Gardner, and lost goalies Joe Daley and Don Caley. Crozier (311 NHL games) and Gardner (54 NHL games) were better value than Daley (105 NHL games) and Caley (1 NHL game), but Daley had a solid WHA career so it is closer than it may appear.

DETROIT’S PULLBACKS

WHAT ABOUT LIBETT?

  1. Howie Young 130
  2. Floyd Smith 271
  3. Gary Jarrett 336
  4. Bob Falkenberg 38
  5. Ron Anderson 251
  6. Craig Cameron 551
  7. Jim Watson 217
  8. Duke Harris 26
  9. Jim Peters 300
  10. Fred Hilts 0
  11. Irv Spencer 5
  12. Gary Marsh 7
  13. Rick McCann 43
  14. Larry Billows 0
  15. Nick Libett 982

Detroit’s pullback list is plain weird. 3,119 games is an excellent total–a close match for the Rangers–and the best of the bunch appears to have been an afterthought. I remember Nick Libett as a solid 2-way winger who could score 20 goals a season. Floyd Smith (he’s in the photo above) had the old Dad look on his hockey cards, but my Dad talked about him as a pretty exciting player. Strange what you remember. Libett is #14 below.

 SET FREE

  1. Bob Wall 282
  2. Ray Cullen 278
  3. Real Lemieux 455
  4. Ab McDonald 245
  5. Billy Harris 135
  6. Leo Boivin 211
  7. Terry Gray 101
  8. Ted Taylor 156
  9. Pete Goegan 46
  10. Don McKenny 39
  11. Val Fonteyne 349
  12. Norm Beaudin 25
  13. Bryan Watson 716
  14. Parker MacDonald 104
  15. Brent Hughes 435

The ‘set free’ total is 3,574 for the top 15 skaters, and the best of them (Watson, Hughes, Lemieux) hung around awhile. The veterans–these were NHLers forced down the deep Detroit system–saw another trip to the NHL and took advantage. Men who belong on that list are Ab McDonald, Billy Harris and Leo Boivin. Detroit’s system had been the NHL’s best in the late 1940s and early 1950s, but lost the talent struggle to the Canadian teams and spent 1955-67 as the third wheel.

NHL GAMES PLAYED BY THOSE ‘SET FREE’

  1. Boston 6,933
  2. Toronto 4,439
  3. New York 4,395
  4. Montreal 3,801
  5. Detroit 3,574
  6. Chicago 2,983

This is out of time with what should have happened, and we’ll discuss it in the installment. One of the teams didn’t play fair, and it is reflected perfectly in these boxcar numbers.

Two quick things before moving on. Detroit had this crazy notion that they had to trade away players really early, I mean at 30 years old. This was a Jack Adams tradition and it cost them big time–names like Terry Sawchuk, Red Kelly and others were sent away long before they should have, and the other teams in the league benefited greatly. Detroit was not any better served by his replacement, Sid Abel. I’ve looked at this expansion draft from every angle over the years and Abel stands alone as a guy who had no clue what he was doing. Imlach made a fatal error–but at least he had a plan.

Norm Ullman was a great, great player. By number or by printed word at the time, Ullman delivered at a high level forever. I don’t think he’s ever gotten the credit he deserved, mostly because he didn’t win a Stanley. Damn shame.

Up next: Demon Sam, by the numbers.

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13 Responses to "THE GREAT EXPANSION VOL 7"

  1. BlacqueJacque says:

    LT, sorry for going off topic, but I’d really like your thoughts on this:

    Gary Bettman is widely seen to have insulted players during these negotiations. Disregarding even his personal characteristics as a smug, condescending, impatient, snide little rat man, the offer itself was an insult.

    In this context, the KHL appears. It has every incentive to put on a great show for the incoming NHL talent. I acknowledge the KHL isn’t really in the same class as the NHL – the facilities, broadcasts, etc. are not nearly in the same caliber. But if you’re a player pissed off at Bettman, with your contract up after 2013, or being stuck in an underpaying ELC or RFA deal – why not stick it to the man and earn some cash and get a vacation of sorts? Tour cities like Moscow, St. Petersburg, and… Moscow again because Moscow is big, and St. Petes because it’s worth seeing twice… so yeah. A vacation of sorts. Sign a 2-year deal. Maybe 3. And with the KHL’s requirements for incoming NHL players, this won’t be Jason Strudwick milking his legs for one last paycheque. We’ve already got Malkin and Ovechkin going, with Ovie being particularly vocal about staying.

    Has Gary Bettman underestimated the players? I’m starting to believe this is his last work stoppage.

  2. Lowetide says:

    I hope so, but doubt it. The KHL needs to be safer, better. I talked to Andrey Osadchenko about the improvement in airplanes transporting KHL teams and he basically said there’s been none. He spoke very well about the Russian sense of making do and getting everything you can out of things. Which is great, except when you’re talking about airplanes.

    So, there’s that. Plus, these players–almost all of them–have bought into the idea that the NHL and the Stanley is mecca. I’m sure the lifestyle is cool, and for the guys with kids this is going to be brutal. I used to go on one week sales conferences and it killed me to be away from my kids, can’t imagine an entire winter without them (and the wives).

    I’m no fan of the owners and Bettman plays up his dinkishness, but unless the players have the sack to stay out for a year or even two years I think this will end badly for them.

    Again.

  3. leadfarmer says:

    Loving this history lesson that is way before my time. Not to nitpick but you got lost to chicago twice, I assume you meant MTL.

  4. BlacqueJacque says:

    Crazy, the Russians haven’t addressed air safety? Unbelievable. I was sure that’d be the first thing they’d do – upgrade their fleet of aircraft – and show that off. I guess the KHL just doesn’t have the chops to compete.

  5. BlacqueJacque says:

    BTW, I’d like to echo the thank you on this latest series. Good stuff for summer fare.

  6. Mr DeBakey says:

    Norm Ullman was a great, great player.

    When guys started posting their all-time Oiler line-ups a few threads back, I included Ullman on mine.
    I realize Weight was good, and Ullman the Oiler was at the end of a career, but its Norm-fricken-Ullman!

    Lessee, what else do I see?
    Ron Anderson scored the first ever WHA regular season goal playing for the Oilers. The 40th anniversary of which is October 11.
    Bob Wall was probably the first Oiler defenseman run out of town by the knowledgeable Edmonton crowd.
    Bob Falkenberg was captain of the Oil Kings when they won the Memorial Cup in ’66.

    It should be noted, that in the “Sponsorship” era, Edmonton boys went to Detroit. So there was a bond with Detroit for Edmonton even still when Edmonton joined the NHL.

  7. dcsj says:

    Wasn’t Bob Falkenberg an Oiler for a while, too?? I seem to remember him during the Wild Bill Hunter era. Hunter always tried to get Edmonton boys to come home.

    And have to agree, Ullman was great.

  8. Reg Dunlop says:

    I remember listening to an Oiler broadcast from Houston as a kid and the PA announcer mis-pronounced the goal scorer as Norm ‘you’llman. Embarassing. I was in the rink the night Ullman scored his 500th pro goal. Jacques Plante was a sham, only playing home games and all, but Normie was pure class.

    Also, thanks for the effort LT, I eagerly await the next installment.

  9. Bar_Qu says:

    That first picture is magical, just amazing really. I’m reading this series only to see the images you put up (vignettes to a time gone by, but not that far away), but that one is something else.

    Well done sir.

  10. unca miltie says:

    Both wall and falkenburg played for the oil. A small story, I was working at a car dealership in whitecourt that had the two Bob out for an autograph session. Think we paid them about $100. Each for the appearance.

  11. Lois Lowe says:

    Mr DeBakey:

    Lessee, what else do I see?
    Ron Andersonscored the first ever WHA regular season goal playing for the Oilers.The 40th anniversary of which is October 11.

    Kevin Lowe scored the first NHL regular season goal on October 10, 1979. The only reason I know is because it was the very day I came into this world.

  12. hockeyguy10 says:

    Lowetide,

    I went to a hockey school at the old Gardens. Coaches were Billy Moores,Bob Falkenburg,Tom Bladon and Bruce MacGregor.Man that was a long time ago.

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